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"'Drink' for everyone!"
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Cheng Pei-pei was cast in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" because Ang Lee remembered her fondly from the films she made as a young woman, with several articles specifically mentioning this one, also a signature film of King Hu. It would be Hu's last for Shaw Brothers before moving to Taiwan, regarded as both a pivotal moment in the wuxia genre and a great film in its own right. It is not an undeserved reputation." (more)
"Early Jackie Chan, which at least shows impressive flashes."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""The Fearless Hyena" is noteworthy in large part because it is Jackie Chan's first credited movie as writer and director as well as star, and given that "screenplay by Jackie Chan" never exactly became something that drew people to movies, it's not surprising that the story is fairly perfunctory. On the other hand, Chan's greatest skill as a director - getting out of the way of his own fight choreography - is visible from the start." (more)
"Arguably darker than serial killer thrillers, but still engrossing."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT FANTASTIC FEST 2014: Film festivals, or the other ways that film lovers cram more movies than their friends watch in a month into a much shorter span of time, can really warp one's perception of a given picture via context. On its own, I might consider "The Treatment" to be a dark, pessimistic movie about especially horrible crimes; after three screenings that plunged me into that sort of dark water without any sort of lifeline, this movie's police procedural approach made it seem much more an exciting thriller." (more)
"The case of the missing mystery."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT FANTASTIC FEST 2014: One of the best sorts of mysteries plunges its detective into a world not his own, such that figuring out how this other culture works is an important part of finding the killer. Some sort of personal growth is nice too. The trouble with "Waste Land" is that it never offers much more than the plunge, and that never with the sort of depth that makes the lack of a compelling mystery or fleshed-out character arc less keenly felt." (more)
"Not trash, but certainly not pleasant."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT FANTASTIC FEST 2014: "Just jerk off when your brother tells you to" isn't quite the first line of "I Am Trash", but it's close and gets the audience's attention. It also turns out to be one of the less horrific moments in this movie about a family of sex offenders. If that description puts you off, you're probably well-served trusting those instincts." (more)
"Deja vu."
3 stars
Brett Gallman says... "In its relentless pursuit to reboot everything with a grim and gritty sensibility, Hollywood has come around to resurrecting “The Equalizer,” a relatively short-lived but popular television series centered on a man’s quest for vigilante justice. Such an approach feels passé and exhausting at this point, yet that’s really the least of the film’s problems. More disconcerting is its refusal to actually commit to this mode, as it instead wears it like an accessory that adds a sense of faux-profundity to a film that’s mostly about one guy’s quest to just kill and blow up everything in his path." (more)
I AM HERE (2014/II)
"An impressive look at serious instability."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT FANTASTIC FEST 2014: "I Am Here" is heart-and-gut-wrenching in its first act, taking horrific events and making them hurt more with things that would at first glance have the opposite effect. It's not quite so sure-handed when it starts to actually tell a story around the situation it has set up, but is built on such a strong base that this hardly matters." (more)
"And Still, No "Strike Force" Movie. . ."
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Despite my relatively pacifistic nature, I am usually up for a solidly-made vigilante drama in which a seemingly ordinary citizen is finally pushed too far and wreaks brutal vengeance upon those careless enough to wake the sleeping tiger within--kidnappers, murderers, newspaper delivery boys who somehow contrive to drop the Sunday edition in the one small puddle in an otherwise expansive driveway. All I ask from such a movie is that they do one of two things--either deal with the moral, legal and ethical implications of taking the law into one's hands in a plausible and thoughtful manner (as was the case with the original "Death Wish," a far more thoughtful film that it is usually given credit for being thanks to its increasingly squalid sequels) or tell the story in such a stylish and viscerally exciting manner that it is possibly to at least temporarily overlook the absence of those moral, legal and ethical implications (such as the original "Taken," a film that is borderline fascist, to be true, but done in such a shamelessly entertaining manner that one doesn't notice its more troubling aspects until long after it has ended). The hyper-violent and hyper-idiotic "The Equalizer" does neither of those things, nor much of anything else for that matter, and the whole thing is simply a brutal and brutally overblown exercise in cinematic sadism that has clearly deluded itself into thinking that it is much more thoughtful and dramatic than it actually is." (more)
"Not Particularly Laikable"
3 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "With its borderline grim storyline, offbeat sense of humor and decidedly British sensibility, "The Boxtrolls" is certainly far removed from most of the films aimed primarily at family audiences to emerge in the last few years. In theory, this is something I can fully embrace because I must confess to having grown more than a little weary with such things as of late--with the rare exception such as the wonderful "The Lego Movie," most of these films have proven to be little more than extended ads designed to sell crap to little kids instead of telling them original and entertaining stories. (Anyone about to write in asking why I have overlooked "Frozen" is gently advised not to on the basis that you presumably enjoyed that one a lot more than I did. In practice, however, I cannot quite get behind "The Boxtrolls" because while it is indeed a technical marvel that strives to do something different than the norm, it never quite seems sure of what it is it actually wants to do and invokes a lot of dark subject matter without having a clear idea of what it wants to do with it." (more)
"A vacation mystery which could go better."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT FANTASTIC FEST 2014: There's a moment at the end of a lot of the really good "Coen-like" movies (a description unfair to everyone involved, but one people use) where someone sits down, has a long sigh, and considers just what all this insanity means, inviting the audience to do the same. I don't know if "Man from Reno" quite has that moment, and it's kind of missed. There's still quite a bit to like about this little mystery even without that moment, and maybe it works well enough without it." (more)

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